By Eric MacKenzie
JULY 20, 2022
RICHMOND, BC (PGA of British Columbia) – One of the province’s most impactful junior-golf initiatives made a triumphant return this month, as Canucks Junior Golf Week presented by TD attracted hundreds of girls and boys across the province to get an unparalleled introduction to the game through PGA of BC Professionals.
More than 5,000 British Columbia youth and counting have come through the Canucks Junior Golf Week program since it first launched in 2014 as a joint initiative of the PGA of BC and Vancouver Canucks, each of which share the belief that children benefit from enhanced physical literacy, improved hand-eye coordination and more through participation in a variety of sports.
Unable to operate each of the past two summers due to COVID-19 concerns, Canucks Junior Golf Week enjoyed a fantastic re-emergence during July 11 to 18 with more than 50 single-day camps operating at a record number of PGA of BC facilities in two-dozen communities throughout the province. The PGA of BC and hosting Professionals appropriately reduced capacity for this year’s camps, adhering to health and safety guidelines to ensure for the well-being of all those who attended.
The program is open to all youth aged 5 and up, who receive approximately 90 minutes of instruction in golf’s fundamentals – including putting, chipping and full swings – under the guidance of PGA of BC Professionals. That provides kids with the baseline skills needed to continue at their own pace with the sport, instilled by the province’s most trusted and experienced instructors.
Patrick Lago, Head Teaching Professional at Coquitlam’s Lago Golf Academy, didn’t hesitate to bring the program back to his facility when it relaunched for 2022.
“It’s just a really fun learning atmosphere and a low-cost experience that allows the kids to get acquainted with the game and learn from Professional golf instructors in their neighbourhood,” said Lago, who welcomed nearly 50 junior golfers across three sold-out camps during the week.
“It’s a great way for parents to see if their kid really enjoys the game and if they want to continue with it.”
Canucks Junior Golf Week strives to eliminate the barriers to golf participation that many youth and families may encounter in seeking an entry point to the sport. Registration fees are affordable at just $20 for a camp session, inclusive of all facility fees, equipment rental for kids who don’t have clubs of their own, plus a take-home gift featuring the Vancouver Canucks logo – each camper received a lunch cooler bag this summer.
“Lots of kids came in Canucks gear, and that side of it’s pretty neat,” said Teaching Professional Jeff Overholt, the Director of Instruction at The Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna.
“The formality of the game is a component of golf that is quickly being dispelled, and it’s cool for kids to come in T-shirts and not necessarily have to have a collared shirt tucked in, or all of those things that can be barriers to the game. It was fun for the kids to wear their jerseys and maybe break some of the stuffiness that might sometimes be perceived at a higher-end club like The Harvest.”
Lago noted how camp sessions at his academy are structured to keep junior participants engaged, rotating through stations dedicated to different golf skills.
“We make sure they’re always switching things up,” said Lago. “Rather than just doing the same thing for 20 or 30 minutes, we have them do something quick so they’re keeping interested, staying involved and finding it fun while doing something new and different within the same aspect of the game.”
Adding to the fun factor at Lago’s camps were surprise appearances from Canucks mascot Fin, who often visits select camps in the Lower Mainland to take a few swings at the range alongside his young fans.
“It was amazing. Right when he showed up, all of the kids’ eyes just lit up,” said Lago. “He did some fun shots and tricks with the kids and gave some help with instruction without saying a word. He’s got some skills, the kids loved him and he was hilarious.”
Overholt, the PGA of Canada’s Junior Leader of the Year Award recipient in 2014, found creative ways to incorporate a hockey theme into The Harvest’s camp as well.
“Because it’s tied in with the Canucks, I found there were lots of kids who played hockey but hadn’t really explored golf, so it was nice to be able to make a connection between the two – explaining how a chip shot is like passing, or hitting your driver is like shooting a slap shot,” he said. “It was a first introduction to the game for a lot of them (and) hopefully inspired them to come back and want to get into it at a deeper level.”
The PGA of BC extends its gratitude to the TD Bank Group for its inaugural year of presenting sponsorship for the Association’s signature junior-golf initiative. We further appreciate the continued support of longtime contributing partner Kal Tire, as well as the Vancouver Canucks their ongoing commitment to the success of Canucks Junior Golf Week.
Planning is already underway for the program’s 2023 edition. As spaces in the program are available on a first-come, first-served basis and many locations reach capacity quickly, we encourage interested parents to join our program contact list to be notified when participant registration opens next spring.